Mark Warawa at the 2017 March for Life. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

MP Mark Warawa's final speech a plea for palliative care

By 
  • May 16, 2019

Mark Warawa, the Conservative MP from Langley-Aldergrove in B.C., is leaving politics as he battles cancer. In his farewell speech to the House of Commons on May 7 — his 69th birthday — Warawa made an impassioned plea for better palliative care in this country. Here is an abridged excerpt from his speech:

When I announced that I was not going to be running again, I felt that God was creating a new chapter of my life. 

I was preparing to be a chaplain giving pastoral care to seniors. I was doing this studying and reading, and lo and behold, I got sick. I was reading all these case studies about whether to operate or whether to give palliative care and I was honoured by our leader to be given the responsibility for palliative care. Then I found myself in the hospital, a surprise, and experiencing what it is like to face end of life. With all that reading and preparation, maybe it was not for me to administer to others but to prepare myself for this trial. I want to thank everyone so much.

When someone is first given the diagnosis that there are some serious problems, doctors are dealing with the physical person, but there is more than just the physical to us. There are the spiritual and the emotional sides, the psychosocial, but that was left unadministered to. While the doctors were looking at my physical condition, that was being ignored. This is tremendously important. Doctors give a diagnosis and look at how they are going to fix a patient, at what kind of operation is needed or what chemo, but what about the person? What about the family and the distress? We need to encourage our medical system to make sure that they are providing a ministry for the rest of the person.

I was at the Vancouver General Hospital, which is an incredible hospital with incredible physicians and surgeons, but that need was left unmet.

I asked for palliative care. I was there for 15 days. Of the thousands of doctors, there are two palliative care physicians at VGH, and I never saw them. They came once while I was recovering and groggy and sleepy, so that need was unmet, unfortunately.

I have experienced first-hand the difficulty of accessing palliative care. We know from statistics that it is not available to 70 to 84 per cent of Canadians, a tragic number. Our system is not designed to meet that need. We are trying to fix the body, but in some cases it is better not to do the heroic thing, not to remove the organs or use chemo and that sort of thing. Science has shown us that people can live longer and have a better quality of life, in some cases, if they are given palliative care, but those options were not provided to me. Why is that?

The system is broken and needs to be fixed. We passed Bill C-277. This Parliament is coming to an end, but I hope that the next Parliament will make a commitment to fix that and provide leadership in Canada, maybe through a university chair or something, so we can fix this situation. People are left in despair, emotions are raw and family support is not there, but they are not given the opportunity for palliative care. 

What is the only remaining option? If it is not surgery, it is maybe that they should consider MAiD, medical assistance in dying. I was on the legislative committee when we discussed that proposal and passed it. We had to, because of the Carter decision.

We have a situation in Canada of basic needs not being met, and out of desperation people are saying that the easiest way is to end their life through an injection. They are saying that would be the humane thing to do, but we cannot force people into that kind of a choice. We have to provide palliative care.

None of us are here by accident. I believe that strongly. I have a strong faith in God. If we are not here by accident, then what is the responsibility for each of us that goes along with that?

To whomsoever much has been given, from him much will be required.

Therefore, we have a responsibility to do what is right, to be truthful, to be people of integrity in making Canada better and working with one another when it is appropriate to do so.

God has given me some time. I may be around for a long time or I may be around for a short time. We do not know.

This is the most important part: It is that I want to encourage each of you to love one another, to encourage each other, because God loves us. Pray for another. Pray about what is really important. Help one another. Seek God’s will for you each day. Do what is right. Be honest.

We read in Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” 

Against such things there is no law. It is all legal. It is all good.

Life is precious. Life is sacred. I have been reminded very freshly of how valuable and precious life is, from beginning to end.

God bless you. I love you all. I will look forward to being able to serve. Until October, it will likely be out of my constituency office, but to God be the glory.

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